Week 5: User Research

Process

This week we went into the process of doing good user research, and making useful observations that avoided bias. To practice this we spent some time observing a crowded area on campus and taking notes. We observed practices done by the people in the area, such as talking and eating. These practices were actions that were clearly visible and required little or no inferring on the part of the observer. We avoided making any assumptions about people that could not be visibly noted, such as inner emotions or thought process.

For my specific user research study, I did much the same but in a different situation. To study commuting, I went to a busy bus stop near campus and took half an hour to watch people and take notes. I wrote qualitatively about the people I observed, their practices and pattens, and how they interacted with their surroundings.

We observed practices done by the people in the area, such as talking and eating.
I took field notes on people and practices during the observation process.

Reflection

What I liked about this project was that it forced me to be as unbiased and disinterested as possible in my note taking, so as to not project my own emotions or inferences. I often caught myself about to make observations that were really based on assumptions I made, such as saying that people were impatient because they shifted around a lot. Making unbiased observations is important because otherwise it can mislead design and lead to addressing problems that don’t actually exist.

Application

This type of research process is a fantastic way of observing people and how they use certain objects or systems, and for gaining a better understanding of those practices. It might not be a great way to ideate or invent new solutions since it’s focused on first learning about the users, gathering qualitative data, and recognizing the parts of design that may need to be improved or redesigned. For example, user research would probably not be a great way to start the process of reimagining a new public transportation system from scratch, but it would be an effective method of figuring out how to better an existing one. It is useful because it leads to practical solutions that are based on how real world users interact with something, whether it be a lounge space or a door handle. It could definitely be used in conjunction with ideation and other processes in order to develop the most practical, efficient design possible.